Bose Shocks Reader, Not In A Good Way

Reader Jerry wants to warn you about his shocking problem with his Bose in-ear headphones. If he goes for a walk with them, they shock his inner ear. Ouch! Jerry wrote to Bose, telling them about his problem, and Bose wrote back, “Yeah? So?”. Apparently, occasional shocks to your inner ear aren’t a problem, or a design flaw, they’re a feature! See what Jerry has to say about this, inside.

Here’s something interesting for you guys.

You may have seen ads for Bose ear buds or “In Ear” phones or whatever they call them; the little buggers retail for a hefty $99 a pair.

Their main claim to fame is supposed to be great sound and superior comfort.

Unfortunately, Bose’s idea of comfort is, shall we say, a little undermined by the fact that their ear buds transmit static shocks to your inner ear!

That’s right. If you take these for a walk – something ear bud wearers might CONCEIVABLY do – you can discover this shocking design flaw for yourself.

I contacted Bose to find out wassup with dis, and here’s what they said:

We have received observations from a few customers that mild electrical shocks have been transmitted through their headsets. We have investigated these cases and found them to be related to environmental causes such as customers walking on carpeting, wearing clothing that discharges static electricity (wool, etc), or even using exercise equipment such as treadmills. Low humidity in the air can also make it more likely that you will receive shocks from objects such as doorknobs, clothing, other people, and electronic equipment. Static charges discharged through the headset will not cause any harm, and do not indicate an issue with the headset itself.

Well, excuse me, but I’ve never received static shocks from any other ear buds or headphones I’ve ever used, so I consider this an issue with Bose ear buds. And no, the shocks are NOT pleasant…

Check it out!

Jerry Danzig

NYC

Gee, Bose, it’s not fair to blame Jerry if your product shocks him if he tries to use it. And “pain” is considered “harm”, at least in most definitions. There’s not much point in returning the earbuds for repair or replacement if the problems inherent in the product. Since Jerry’s not cool with random electric shocks to his inner ear, (there’s just no pleasing some people,) he might want to use our delightful Consumerist techniques to convince someone with authority at Bose to let him return his product and get his money back. He was looking for superior sound quality, not involuntary electroshock therapy.

(photo:The Joy Of The Mundane)

Comments

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  1. Snowblind says:

    Monty Python Version:

    Jerry:
    Help Help! I am being repressed!

    See the problems inherent in the product!

    See the problems inherent in the product!

    Bose: Bloody Customers!

  2. Bye says:

    Wow. The gall of a headphone user to wear them while on a treadmill!

  3. BigElectricCat says:

    Man, my wife was going to buy some of those. I better show her this.

  4. Mike8813 says:

    I get scared when the mailbox shocks me…

    Getting shocked in my HEAD??? No, thanks.

  5. petrarch1608 says:

    i’m in the market for a good pair of headphones, thanks for warning me about these.

    Can anyone recommend some good headphones for under $100. I’m looking to do a lot of travelling this summer. I like the ear-muff headphones as opposed to the earbuds.

  6. alejo699 says:

    Hmm. Consumerist never posts my comments but I’ll give it another shot, what the hell….
    It sort of stands to reason that if you run conducting wire into your skull you run the risk of creating a static shock to your inner ear. Common sense, if you think about it. On the other hand, properly insulating the buds with some rubber or non-conducting plastic where they touch your skin seems like an easy fix. Not cool, Bose, not cool.

  7. b612markt says:

    I have been the very proud owner of Bose Quiet Comfort series I, II and III headphones. I also experienced the shocks on series II, but never on III or I. I think it’s a HUGE design flaw, but it only happened to me once in a while and I forgot about it quickly after it happened. If I was wearing a pacemaker, that would probably have scared me more.

  8. Dreyus says:

    I’ve been shocked while using these earbuds before. While taking my coat (lined with fleece) off I would get a HECKUVA shock in my ears.

    I’m glad I was only borrowing these earbuds, as I wouldn’t spend $100 on these strictly because of this flaw.

    However, the sound quality was great!

  9. Carencey says:

    I have a pair of Sony in-ear headphones that I get shocked by a lot during winter. I have long hair and it usually happens when I have a sweater on under my Tyvek labcoat, so I never really thought anything of it — it’s a little uncomfortable, but I am far better than the average human being at generating static sparks so I wouldn’t have thought to blame the manufacturer.

    (I am also the target profile for people who start static fires at gas stations, not surprisingly.)

  10. AdmiralNelson says:

    Every pair of headphones I’ve owned have shocked me when I’m an instance of static charge buildup. The combination of my chair at work and my butt is a veritable generator of static electricity.

  11. Darkwish says:

    The shock is there to kill off nerve endings in the ear to make people think that Bose products sound better than they really do.

  12. wesrubix says:

    sigh. I have to side with Boss on their explanation. They made no denial that owners could return their units.

    The degree of the shock I think depends on the capacitive power of the speakears in these headphones: think about it, the more charge that can build up to make heavy bass, the more charge from static electricity can build up to cross the voltage gap between the phones and your ear.

    I do find it a big odd that Bose hasn’t figured out a fix for this yet.

  13. citybuddha says:

    My headphones always manage to shock me when I put a fork in the electrical socket in the kitchen. What gives?

  14. Silentheero says:

    This is not a flaw with Bose headsets. There are thousands of incidents of this, google it.
    I have had it happen many times myself with several pairs of earbuds. Basic electrostatic charges, which discharge in the ear when you don’t come in contact with any ground for a while.

    It is shocking (pun intended) but it isnt going to deafen you.

  15. Asmordean says:

    If I wear my winter coat my iPod headphones shock me all the time. It’s annoying but I worry more about what that’s doing to my player than my head.

    I’ve tried other brands of earbuds but to no avail. My coat is a static monster so I just have to hold onto the body of the Touch with my hand which prevents the build-up of static.

    Non-story here.

  16. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    @wesrubix: I don’t think it’s the charge held internally to the headphone. I think it’s the buildup on the external surface.

    And I don’t think it’s traveling *through* your head. Just from the phone to the ear. (Like the charge from your finger to the door knob.)

  17. sean77 says:

    Bose has always made shoddy products and made up for it with advertising.

  18. JackHandey says:

    I have gotten mild static shocks from in-ear headphones before. This only happened when I got up out of a plastic chair while wearing a fleece pullover in the winter (or basically anything that would build up charge.) I agree that it is quite unpleasant, but the problem is not confined to Bose headphones.

  19. b612markt says:

    PS – I love my QC3 headphones (quiet comfort) my in-ear Bose headphones and my 3-2-1 GSX. I’ll be their customer for life.

  20. JackHandey says:

    @petrarch1608:
    “Can anyone recommend some good headphones for under $100.”
    I just got a pair of Sennheiser HD280 Pro Headphones. They are amazing for the price (approx $100). They have great sound quality are good at blocking out external noise (up to 32dB attenuation). I am not an audio snob, so you might want do some research online rather than take my word for it. There is a lot of information out there, but this pair would be a good starting point.

  21. Techguy1138 says:

    @petrarch1608: I’m happy with my giant old Sony MDR-V6 headphones.

    I had the mdr v777 and the mdr-nc6 and would not recommend them. The v777 are fragile,but have sound great, and the nc6 are rugged but, have a lot of hiss on the noise cancellation.

  22. JackHandey says:

    @Techguy1138: I also liked my Sony MDR-V6 headphones (until they wore out/broke after 10+years of heavy use). I replaced them with the Sennheiser HD280s. Unfortunately I can’t compare them side-by side now, but I am very happy with the HD280s after owning the MDR-V6s.

  23. bigroblee says:

    @petrarch1608: I have both a pair of ER6 Isolator Earphones by Etymotic and a par of V-moda Bass Frequency headphones; I have been very satisfied with both. I got a good deal on the Etymotic’s for 50$ on a clearance sale online and the V-moda’s I paid 50$ for but I believe they have dropped in price now. I find the Etymotic pair to be more comfortable for extended wearing and usually wear them when I sleep.

  24. usernametaken says:

    i have had a set of jvc ear buds for a little over a year with no problems

  25. Xerloq says:

    @wesrubix: You can’t really fix the shortest path to ground without breaking the circuit. Unfortunately, that would render the headphones inoperable.

    @AdmiralNelson: Same here. Every pair of in ear headphones (even the really expensive in ear monitors by Shure) have shocked me at some point. You want to avoid the shock, wear supra-aural phones (aka, cans).

  26. starbreiz says:

    Try Etymotic headphones. I love mine… best $150 I ever spent.

  27. MelL says:

    @Techguy1138: I had the mdr-nc6 as well, and still do. I don’t really use them though since the only way I need them is for my bass amp and they can’t handle it, unfortunately.

  28. bigmac12 says:

    What do youe expect for $99…just plain old “sound?”
    Perhaps a 2′ lightning rod atop your head would bleed the static into the air……..ZAP!

  29. thebpem says:

    When its winter out and I walk home from school I get shocks from my earbuds all the time. Those are just $10 sony’s though. I don’t know how bad 10,000Volts to the ear drums actually are, but it isn’t very comfortable. Static discharges are just the way electrons tell you that they love you.

  30. Pink Puppet says:

    Aww, I like Bose and was thinking of getting a pair of their headphones. I know everyone says they’re overpriced, but I have awful luck with headphones and I’ve heard from friends that their customer service was actually really awesome when a product decides to die.

    Bah, cheap headphones it is then. I’m clumsy, a static shock to my ears would probably send me tripping over myself.

  31. Zyzzyva100 says:

    B uy
    O ther
    S ound
    E quipment

    Anyone that actually values good sound knows that bose is the speaker/heaphone equivalent of monster cables. Get your money back and I bet you can find something better for half the price.

  32. crackers says:

    @petrarch1608: I have the Sennheiser HD202 headphones; they’re a steal at $40, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the terrific sound quality. For that price, I’m not afraid to ball ‘em up and tuck them in my bag for commuting.

  33. SJActress says:

    @CCS:

    I havd the HD201 headphones, and I love them, too. Very comfy and a GREAT sound quality for the price (or even for a greater price).

  34. SJActress says:

    I know this is a double-post, because consumerist sucks on Firefox sometimes, BUT:

    I have the Sennheiser HD201 headphones, and they rock as much as CCS says (just read my other post for more info…if it shows up).

  35. lumpysherman says:

    I have the same BOSE ear buds and have never experienced this problem.
    Great sound but don’t care for the design.

  36. sn1per420 says:

    I’ve had this happen with a pair of Sony earbuds, and I’ve read similar complaints about ‘buds made by Razer and Sennheiser as well. I think it’s just something that happens with the in ear buds.

  37. kyle4 says:

    I wanted to write something about how much I liked Theresa’s writing here, but can’t come up with anything other than “it was so funny and informative at the same time.”

    He should try and get his money back. He’ll have no use for them. I returned the terrible Skull Candy Ink’d earbuds because anytime the cord hit something (like you moved your arm) it sounded (since they were in ear) like someone put a stethoscope in your ear and hit the bottom part.

  38. Thorny says:

    Take your headphones to a humid place. Try to recreate the shocks. I bet you won’t be able to. This is akin to running around as a kid with your slippers on the carpeting and then touching the doorknob. Did the shock kill you? No. You probably did it for fun just like I used to.

    I’ve had no issues with my Bose headphones and in fact, Bose has gone above and beyond with the service I have received in the past (e.g. replacing things out of warranty, etc).

    Not to mention the QC headphones are the only ones that have actually ever helped me sleep on a plane.

  39. DynamicBits says:

    @petrarch1608: I don’t normally recommend Sony products, but check out the Sony MDR-V900 headphones. eBay is probably the best place to get them – new or used. I play bass guitar and needed something that would be good at producing low frequency sounds. After several hours of research, I decided on these and haven’t regretted the decision. Additionally, I’ve used them for listening to all kinds of music and they are great.

    Definitely don’t get the MDR-V700DJ headphones. I had a friend get them and after trying out my MDR-V900′s, he regretted his purchase.

    A lot of people also recommend various Sennheiser models. I haven’t tried them, so I don’t know how they compare.

  40. SteveBobo says:

    @petrarch1608:
    I love these headphones(Sennheiser PX 100 Headphones)…have mine for 3yrs and the still kick ass. Perfect for traveling.
    [reviews.pricegrabber.com]

  41. BrentNewland says:

    HeadBanger EarSubs. Highly rated, under $30 at Toys R Us.

    Only complaint is that the ear inserts take some getting used to.

  42. jamar0303 says:

    @petrarch1608: “Can anyone recommend some good headphones for under $100. I’m looking to do a lot of travelling this summer. I like the ear-muff headphones as opposed to the earbuds.”

    These are nice.

  43. jamar0303 says:
  44. reishka says:

    @petrarch1608:

    Sennheiser 250 HD Pros… You can get them for 100$ off of Newegg.

  45. Draconianspark says:

    If he’s walking through the streets of NYC he could be running into some con-ed candy, er, I mean an unintentional voltage leak. One of my more distant relatives recounted a story about their little pocket dog getting fried during a walk on a rainy day at our last reunion, I called BS on it but then looked it up and it’s a real problem.

  46. arsbadmojo says:

    I hate Bose with the burning hatred of a thousand suns, but I think this particular problem happens to other in-ear phones as well. (At least it has happened to me)

    I don’t think there’s anything they can do to fix it, and unless they’re giving him a hard time about returning them for a refund, I don’t see the foul here.

  47. scoosdad says:

    I’m going to voice my complaint to Leviton, the light switch people. I get a wicked electrical shock every time I walk across my living room carpet and then touch the screw on the switch plate. There must be something wrong with their product as it only happens in the wintertime. They should recall all those switches and make the shocks go away!

    Sony MDR-7506′s are the pro version of the MDR-V6′s and are practically an industry standard in closed ear headphones. Buy the V6′s and you won’t be sorry.

  48. Bizzarodave says:

    I’ve never heard of this issue with headphones before, but it makes sense from an electricity standpoint.

    I’ve never had this problem though, and I owned Shure E2Cs before a wiring issue forced me to get the Shure SE310s. Amazing earbuds, I wear them in all seasons and all weather conditions, and I’ve never experienced a shock.

  49. zarex42 says:

    The Etymotic models are far better quality, and about the same price. I’d strongly recommend them to anyone in the market for an in-ear headphone.

    And they’ve never shocked me! (They can’t, they’re soft silicone..)

  50. KarlF says:

    I don’t think this problem is as uncommon as Jerry would lead you to believe. Apple, SkullCandy, Sony, JVC, and Philips ear buds have all given me static shocks under the correct conditions. Usually it occurs in the winter when I’m out walking and the player is in my pocket, if I hold the player in my hand this doesn’t happen.

  51. lotusflwr says:

    I’ve had shocks in my ears from hands-free headsets, iPod earbuds, regular headphones, my cell phone, a regular telephone, you name it. I figured most people experienced it at some point or another, magnets and electricity being entwined physical forces and all.

    The Bose response didn’t seem snobby or inappropriate to me, merely informative, such as “this will not kill you” and “this is laws of physics in motion”. Their duty as the manufacturer is to confirm to you that you don’t have a faulty set of earbuds ; your duty as a customer is to tell them you want to return them regardless of a design flaw because it bothers you.

    Get pissed off when they refuse, but don’t choose a nuclear option just because you never realized jamming tiny charged magnets into your ear could conceivably go wrong… you’re in more danger from the volume pumped straight into your eardrum than the equivalent of a spark-laden wet willy to your ear cartilage.

  52. telepheedian says:

    Bose customer service in general seems to be rather smug. When I called about a replacement for my out of warranty triport AEs, they offered $30 take it or leave it, despite the fact that it was caused by a design flaw. When I asked if there were any alternatives, he said I could toss my triports and buy a pair of “bad” sounding headphones for that $30. I’m sure I could find some $30 headphones that sound at least as good as those triports, TBH, they weren’t really that mind-blowing.

  53. Woofer00 says:

    1) Stick wire leads into portable audio player, check.
    2) Stick other end into ear canal, check.
    3) Power up electrical device to induce current into the ear, check.

    4) Expect nothing to ever go wrong with this situation… check???

    Any engineer could tell you it’s a generic design flaw in all earbuds. Here’s the easy fix – wear shoes with rubber soles, stop humping the carpet, and get a haircut.

  54. I walk with these all the time and have never had a problem. It sounds like a few of them may have a recurring flaw but nothing more.

    The triport IEs and OEs both sound great to me as well. I agree that Bose can be overrated by general consumers and underrated by audiophiles, however, for my ears they provide high quality sound and I have not had any problems with either pair in any way.

    Plus, since I am not able to wear normal “canal” earphones (E2C, etc.) without hurting my ears, these are perfect, because the Bose IE’s do not hurt because they sit inside the outer part of the ear and the tip part of it slightly goes into your ear.

    Either way, I would not want to be shocked by them, and I have a feeling that it is a design flaw, not a “user error”, and Bose (i’ve seen GREAT customer service from them in the past) seems to be lacking lately in the service department.

  55. I end up hitting submit before I am actually done. Wow I am way too wordy.

    Just a finishing thought to the above.. it could very well be a general problem that certain people wearing certain clothing in certain climates, etc. experience, if this is the case and has been proven on a massive scale, then I don’t believe that Bose’s response was necessarily inaccurate.

  56. I think this guy must be talking about his auditory canal — which I’m pretty sure is very different from his inner ear, which is all that weird shit behind the eardrum.

    [upload.wikimedia.org]

  57. elislider says:

    same thing happened with the zune earbuds. i didnt believe the story at first and just brushed it off, but then i happened to me one day, and its definitely related to the manner in which you wear the earbuds and the environment you’re in. i was wearing a sweater with a metal zipper i think, and had one earbud hanging while the other was in my ear, and it kept popping and shocking me when it would bounce around while i was walking

  58. trujunglist says:

    I recommend Shure. The frequency response is really good and they are extremely affordable for what you get out of them. Otherwise, I’d go Sennheiser.
    Bose basically makes piece of shit everything and is the hated bastard child of the audio industry. I majored in Acoustics and my professors were relentless in dismantling the Bose hype.

  59. I’d actually like to take this time to mention that all in-ear headphones are capable of delivering shocks of static electricity to a person. I’ve had it happen to me on multiple occasions. It happens more in colder environments. Static builds up. It needs to be discharged somehow.

  60. richcreamerybutter says:

    @Zyzzyva100: @arsbadmojo: When will the public come to its senses on the subject of Bose? I have talked loved ones out of ill-advised Bose purchases on many occasions.

    Sennheiser is great, and you can’t go wrong with Grado (made in Brooklyn!).

  61. elephantattack says:

    @petrarch1608:

    V-moda vibes! I love em’ since I’ve gone through about a dozen headsets in my lifetime and these are the best sounding so far (they don’t shock you either). They also come in some pretty colors, mine are red. bout 100 bucks, might be able to get em’ for less though.